Tennessee emerged alongside California on Wednesday as an epicenter of the latest COVID-19 surge even while more than 1 million Americans have been vaccinated as US political leaders sought to guard against a highly contagious coronavirus variant sweeping across Britain.
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Tennessee averaged nearly 128 new infections per 100,000 people over the last week, the highest of any US state, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. California stood second at 111 new cases per 100,000 residents.
“Our state is ground zero for a surge in COVID-19 and we need Tennesseans to (do) their part,” Governor Bill Lee said on Twitter, urging residents to wear face masks and gather only with members of their own household over Christmas.
Some public health officials say Americans' traveling and gathering for Thanksgiving contributed to the latest nationwide explosion in cases.
All told, 31 US states have reported a grim record in new COVID-19 infections for December as hospitalizations and deaths also spiral. More than 194,600 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday alone.
The CDC said that as of Wednesday morning more than 1 million people nationwide had been given the first of the two doses required for the two coronavirus vaccines that have been approved. But most Americans have been told that it could be six months or more before they are eligible for the shots as priority is given to healthcare workers, nursing home residents and in some cases top government officials.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease official, received the Moderna vaccine on live television on Tuesday. President-elect Joe Biden was inoculated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in front of cameras on Monday.